March 4, 2012

Dealing with the rising energy problem

The nighttime satellite photo of North America, centered on the United States, is both beautiful and troubling.

The photo allows one to trace the complete outline of the lower 48 states from light given off by our activities. Boston, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other towns and cities clearly stand out.

That is the beautiful part.

The troubling part is the fact that we can see this detail from thousands of miles away in space. All of this light emitted into space serves no earthly purpose. Hence the statement from some energy experts, scientists and planners that we do not have a carbon-dioxide problem so much as an energy problem, namely, wasted energy.

According to Union of Concerned Scientists, only about 35 percent of the energy produced is converted into electricity. The rest is lost to the environment in various ways.

Let's consider for a moment how this light is generated and where it comes from. About half of the energy used to generate electricity in the United States comes from burning coal, with the rest coming from natural gas, oil, nuclear and renewable sources. These percentages are changing a bit today as coal is being recognized as the dirty kid on the block.

Regulations requiring reductions in emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide (the main source of acid rain), nitrogen oxides and soot, the socialized costs of which all Americans are paying for, have begun to make coal a less desirable source of energy to generate electricity. The main combustion product is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a major concern to climate scientists.

When we think about the extraction of coal, either from mountain-top removal, open-pit mining or deep mine sources, we have to keep in mind the fact that we must then transport this billion tons a year to the 600 coal burning plants in the United States.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time